2015 Participants
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NAME: Daniel Crow

Effect of Opioids on Neonates

The chronic abuse of opioids in southern West Virginia has many harmful effects on addicts. Of particular interest in this region is the effect of opioid abuse by pregnant mothers on their unborn children and ensuing consequences. The resulting Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome appears to be linked to epigenetic mechanisms (molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of gene expression that do not involve changes in DNA sequences), as opposed to a standard genetic effect. This stunted neuronal development is linked to the effect of opioids in the blood of the neonatal brain. To examine the effect of the opioid on the neonatal brain, brain cell cultures will be used as a model neuronal on the effect of opioids on brain development.

To confirm and characterize the epigenetic contribution of the opioid’s pharmacological pathway will be examined via quantification of mRNA produced in presence or absence of opioids and matched with histone modifications known to contribute to the regulation of gene expression. mRNA levels measured by real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction can give definitive ratios of the presence of particular developmental regulators of the cell differentiation and development such as growth factors that control neuronal development. However, without correlating analysis of the mechanism and genomic location of the potential chromatin remodeling, the mechanism of action leading to the opioid in phenotypic change cannot be fully determined. Together, presence of mRNA and local analysis of chromatin structure and composition will allow us to relate global cellular responses to specific modification caused by opioid activity.